Catch Your Breath

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxI’ve learned to take a breath before I speak. When I don’t, I often find myself in a quagmire of problems.

Our lives are stuffed to the brim with space-fillers. With tablets, cell phones, computers, and much more at our fingertips, we can access information and have multiple conversations at once. While e-readers and other screens emphasize the importance of white space for our eyes, we’re constantly sacrificing the white space in our lives. Less white space leads to an overcrowding that pressures us, and our conversations are no exception.

Every second of white space in time doesn’t need to be filled. When we feel the pressure to fill every moment, we’ll begin to anticipate the filling process, thinking of what we want to say next instead of waiting, patiently listening, reflecting, and respectfully responding in turn. Invite processing time. It will take practice, because you’re likely not used to it, and people with whom you converse are certainly just as unfamiliar with it. More white space in conversations creates a slower cadence, a rhythm that flows more than fires. When push and pull is replaced with intentional give and take, the focus can shift from the conversation itself to a respect for the people having the conversation. After all, the relationship is more important than the outcome of the conversation. Words spoken should be driven by the impact they have on the relationship instead of the influence they have on the outcome of the conversation.

Breathing helps as you talk, because it’s an intentional invitation to reflect before responding. As I breathe, I invite God to fill my mind, heart, and words, taking a moment to intentionally yield to him. While it takes some getting used to, it’s not as intrusive or distracting as you might originally think. Most people won’t notice at all. It’s not a deep, cleansing breath, just a regular breath in for oxygen—with an invitation for more nourishing, courageous, and powerful breath. If you find yourself still struggling to listen to the person instead of planning what you’re about to say, you can also use an exhaled breath as you’re listening as a commitment to empty yourself of your self, yielding to and trusting God instead. (Let me admit, I do not always yield well, so I’m not sharing these techniques as someone who has perfected it. I’m a work in progress!)

Inviting breaths into a conversation isn’t just about you. Invite breaths for the other person, too. When somebody pauses to think of a word or finish a thought, wait with them. You might anticipate what you think they’re going to say, but respect them enough to let them finish. It’s nice to be known well enough that someone can finish your thoughts, but it’s also nice to be given the space and time to finish your own thoughts.

Conversations are not a race; they’re an opportunity to engage in relationship. Invite the nourishing rhythm of breathing into your conversations today.

I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as much as you loved me. (John 17:23)

The Persistence of Discipleship

68c6f121d80085251ee6a3da3699b6acThen Peter replied to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”

“Are even you still lacking in understanding?,” (Jesus) asked. (Matthew 15:15-16)

Even Jesus got frustrated and exhausted with discipleship. It’s a persistent process. Of course, Jesus stayed engaged. He worked through the difficult moments, because He knew how important the process was.

How committed are we to discipleship? How often do we walk away because of disinterest, misunderstandings, or frustrations? How ready and willing are we to explain, wrestle with, and listen to people as they grow?

It takes effort, patience, and humility.

And it is necessary and worthwhile.

 

The Less-Than-Perfect Holiday

0913229c6aec0a2173854970ec3f9e86It’s that time of year when many families come together and laugh and smile and make memories and post all their best moments on social media to share with the world and be affirmed with comments about how adorable and wonderful and amazing their family is!

And behind those snapshot moments are struggles, conflicts, unhealed hurts, and wishes that things would be better, not just in the family but in life.

Admitting we have struggles, conflicts, and hurts doesn’t mean we’re miserable. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the holidays with family. It simply means we admit that everything isn’t perfect, that there’s opportunity to grow. It means we don’t wallow in how things could be so much better “if only.” We’re willing to be patient, honest, gracious, and humble. We don’t wait until someone else changes before we’re willing to go the next step. We choose to change despite what someone else chooses. After all, we all have a different perspective of the truth of a situation. And most likely, we’re all a little right and a little wrong.

So this holiday season, even today, take a deep breath and resolve to be humble enough to consider someone else’s perspective. Extend some grace. Show compassion. Be authentic with discernment. Take a small step in the right direction. Refuse to expect everything to change and be healed at once. Allow others to grow, and take responsibility for your own growth.

Let go of what needs to go, and hang onto what’s truly important.

Celebrating the Prodigal

indexHe also said: “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living...

while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:11-13,19-24)

We are all prodigals. We all run from something at some point in hopes that we can escape one thing or person to find something or someone better. We all have running in common. Maybe not the same circumstance, but the same type of action. So, judging each other for running is nothing more than calling out our own faults and shortcomings.

What sets us apart is how we see and receive others when they run. Is our response like the father’s? Do we expect people to pay a certain price, learn specific lessons, and say the words we want to hear from them, or do we let God work in their lives and expect grace, mercy, and forgiveness as He would?

He Doesn’t Forget

1455061_10151968801494280_1986483280_nHe does not forget the cry of the afflicted. (Psalm 9:12b)

It seems like God forgets the cries of the afflicted sometimes, or maybe that He just ignores them. But that’s our own perspective. When we don’t like His response time, we decide to project what we believe His decision and process must be.

We’re often wrong.

We can trust and believe Him, no matter what. Even when we don’t understand, when we don’t like a situation, when we feel overlooked. God is still God. He is still powerful enough, compassionate enough, just enough, and patient enough.

“Enough” is more our issue than His.

Answer Carefully

internet-business-questions-answeredPeople ask a lot of questions. And that is good. As Christians, if we’re not being asked questions, there’s a problem. Either we’re not getting out and about enough, or we’re not approachable enough.

I’m not just talking about questions from people who aren’t Christians. Christians need to ask each other questions, too. But we must be careful answering questions. We don’t have all the answers. Even when we think we have an answer, we need to accept the possibility (and responsibility) of being wrong. That might not be our intent, but it’s always possible.

There is always a motivation behind the question, and it might not be obvious. Questions that might sound like interpretation are more than likely questions of application. People might ask, “What does this mean?” or “What do you think the truth is about…?” But the underlying question is often “What do I do with this?” or “How will you respond to me even if I disagree?”

You can’t know all the implications behind the question, but you can always answer with humility and respect. Speaking the truth is always important, because it is the only firm foundation for the relationship, for you, and for the other person. But speaking the truth always needs to be done in love, which involves respect, patience, kindness, and self-control.

 

Communication and Talking Aren’t The Same

blah-blah-blahSometimes I talk without communicating well.

I know I don’t control someone else’s attention or response, but I can pay attention and respond as I’m talking. After all, talking isn’t the point. Communication is.

I’ve often used the phrase, “But I already told you…” or “I said…,” as if the simple fact that words came out of my mouth secured successful communication.

It doesn’t.

The weight doesn’t completely rest on me, but I need to take communication seriously enough to know that I have some responsibility. I know my motives and my style, so I may think that just saying something to someone or sending an email or text gets the job done. But communication is often less about the content and more about the relationships involved. If I don’t respect the other person through the communication process (and my attitude), what have I gained? What could someone else possibly gained?

The goal of communication is rarely isolated to information.

Communication involves people, so respect, patience, forgiveness, and humility must be a part of it…perhaps even the goal.